- Review Date: 12/4/2013
- Bottom line: The LG LA9700 series of 4K HDTVs deliver plenty of features along with a stunning Ultra HD picture with exquisite detail and reasonably good color accuracy. If you're willing to pay a premium for advanced display technology, you'll like what you see—if you can find 4K content.
- Pros: Outstanding UHD and HD picture quality. Good audio output. Loaded with features.
- Cons: Very expensive. Some backlight blooming. Little native UHD content available. Only three HDMI ports.
Ultra HD (or 4K) HDTVs have been difficult to come by here in our labs, so we were pretty jazzed when an LG's 65LA9700 screen showed up for testing. It's the first major brand, big-ticket 4K HDTV we've tested. Sporting a massive IPS panel with an astounding 3,840-by-2,160-pixel resolution, the 65-inch model ($6,499.99 direct) we tested uses 8.3 million pixels to deliver an ultra-high-definition picture that is nothing short of stunning.
That's only part of the story, though. LG pulled out all the stops and equipped its flagship series with a motorized retractable speaker bar, a full LED backlighting array, and just about every feature you can think of. It's not without flaws, either. The screen exhibits some backlight blooming, the motion control feature has some issues, and its high price tag puts it out of reach for the average consumer. There's also the issue of a near complete lack of 4K content to watch on this, or any, UHD screen. Still, the 65LA9700 is a beautiful, high-performing HDTV. If you can afford it, you'll likely be happy with this super-deluxe set.
Design and Features
The 65LA9700 looks great even before you turn it on. The big IPS panel is framed by 0.3-inch black trim that give it a bezel-free look. A brushed aluminum band runs along the outer edge of the cabinet, and a matching cut-out rectangular stand holds the big screen steady (but doesn't swivel). Then there's the motorized 4.1-channel speaker bar that pops out of the bottom of the cabinet when the set is powered up and retracts back into the cabinet when the TV is turned off. It doesn't just look really cool; it delivers loud and clean audio output and even serves up some decent bass.
The panel is illuminated by a full array of LEDs, but the cabinet is still relatively slim at 1.6 inches and juts out to 3 inches at the bottom where the speaker bar is housed. At 89.5 pounds (without the stand), the 65LA9700 is one heavy LED TV, so make sure you get a strong mounting bracket if you plan on hanging it on a wall. The flip-up camera mounted on the top of the cabinet can be used for Skype and motion-activated commands, but the motion feature was erratic at best in my tests. It's just easier and quicker to use the remote, and save the camera for video chat.
You get plenty of ports with the LA9700, though only three of them are HDMI, which isn't many for a 65-inch TV. Those three ports, along with two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port, sit on the left side of the cabinet facing outward. One of the HDMI ports supports MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link), which lets you connect a smartphone or tablet with an optional MHL cable. Down-facing ports include component and composite AV inputs, a headphone jack, a cable/antenna jack, an optical audio output, an Ethernet port, and an RS-232C port for hooking the screen up to a control system. Power, Channel Up/Down, Volume Up/Down, Input, and Settings buttons sit on the right side of the set.
The LA9700 comes with the same Magic Remote that you get with the LG 55LA8600. It's only 5.5 inches long and performs like an air mouse, moving an on-screen cursor as you move the remote itself. It has a scroll wheel, four directional keys, and Power, Voice Control, Smart TV, Channel Up/Down, Volume Up/Down, Mute, and 3D buttons. The cursor can be jumpy, so be careful when changing picture settings with this remote.
LG typically outfits its HDTVs with extensive picture settings, and the LA9700 is no exception. It comes with five picture presets (Vivid, Standard, Eco, Cinema, and Game) and two ISF expert modes for professional calibrators. Basic settings include Backlight, Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Color, and Tint. Expert settings let you adjust Dynamic Contrast, Resolution Detail, Color Gamut, Gamma, and White Balance. Full Color Management System controls let you individually tweak color, saturation, tint, and luminance levels if you really want to do some deep calibration. In the Audio menu you can select (simulated) Surround Sound and Clear Voice dialog enhancement and chose audio presets for Sports, Gaming, and Movies. You can also set the mechanical sound bar to stay open when the set is powered down.
The LA9700's Smart TV dashboard offers up the usual assortment of Web apps, including streaming video from Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube. You can also take advantage of numerous free and paid apps available through LG's Smart World portal, and share photos and video using the LG Cloud service. Wireless options are plentiful and include 802.11n Wi-Fi for going online, Miracast and WiDi for wirelessly connecting your mobile devices and computers, and Wi-Fi Direct connectivity to connect without a Wi-Fi network.
We measure color accuracy and luminance performance with a Klein K10-A colorimeter, DisplayMate test patterns, and SpectraCal's CalMan 5 software. The LA9700 turned in a respectable black level measurement of 0.0356 cd/m2 and a peak brightness level of 296.08 cd/m2. The resulting contrast ratio of 8,316:1 was solid, but doesn't come close to the kind of intricate black detail that you get from a high-end plasma set like the Editors' Choice Samsung PN60F8500
Out-of-the-box color accuracy was good in my tests, but not ideal. The chromaticity chart above shows red, green, and blue measurements (the colored dots) in relation to their CIE coordinates (the boxes). As you can see, red and blue are slightly off while green is almost spot-on. Fortunately, neither red nor blue appear oversaturated in movies or on the DisplayMate Color Scale test, and if you're a stickler for accurate colors this set has the necessary settings to bring them in line. As is typical of an IPS panel, the picture looked great from every angle.
UHD picture quality is breathtaking. To help with our review, LG sent along a USB drive with some 4K video and photos that really showcase the clarity of UHD. The level of detail in the video clips were absolutely incredible, and the UHD photos looked so real that I was tempted to reach out and touch them. The amazing thing about such densely packed pixels is that the picture looks perfect even when you're up close to screen. Unfortunately, besides sample videos like the ones LG sent, there isn't much UHD content available. Sony offers a $700 UHD Media Player, but it requires a Sony 4K HDTV and only offers a library of movies in the low three digits right now. There will be more UHD content for more hardware coming in the future, but for now, both are severely limited.
The good news is that the LA9700 does a credible job of up-scaling 1080p content, even if the end result is not as mind-blowing as true UHD. The Blu-ray versions of The Bourne Legacy and Oblivion certainly looked noticeably sharper and showed significantly more detailed on the LA9700 than it did on a 1080p HDTV, but only seem light "slightly higher definition" rather than "ultra high-definition." I noticed some minor background noise in certain up-scaled scenes, and backlight bloom, or haloing, was evident in scenes with dark backgrounds, but the solid contrast ratio provided generally strong shadow and highlight details.
The set uses passive 3D technology and comes with four sets of comfortable glasses. As with the LA7400, the 3D picture in Sharks 3D on Blu-ray looked very good, but I noticed some crosstalk while watching from around 60 degrees off-center. This is fairly common with passive 3D HDTVs.
The 65LA9700 consumes a good deal of power for an LED HDTV. It average 250 watts during testing in cinema mode and 178 watts in Eco mode. That's high compared with the 60-inch Vizio E601I-A3, which used 118 watts in the same test. The only other big screen we've tested, the Seiki SE50UY04 uses 114 watts, but at 50 inches, that's a much smaller screen.
If there's any doubt that UHD is the next big thing, one look at the LG 65LA9700's stellar 4K picture quality should immediately erase it. Despite minor blooming issues, this set provided the best overall picture quality we've seen, and it offers innovative features and pleasing aesthetics. In addition to killer UHD performance, the panel delivers a beautiful HD picture with relatively accurate colors, wide viewing angles, and convincing 3D imagery. If you're an early adopter with lots of cash, the 65LA9700 is a top choice for an Ultra High Definition TV. Right now, though, you're better off getting a high-end 1080p plasma HDTV (or two, for the same price as the 65LA9700) like the Editors' Choice Samsung PN60F8500. If you don't have $6,500 to blow on a UHD TV and really want that 4K resolution, you can save thousands with the $1,500 Seiki SE50UY04. You'll end up compromising on the picture quality, features, size, and design, though. Either way, remember that there isn't much UHD content available to watch right now. That will likely change, but it could take some considerable time.